The Hawaiian bobtail squid (Euprymna scalopes) lives in the shallow coastal waters off Hawaii, found buried in the sand during the day and out catching prey at night. In order to camouflage against the moon and starlit waters, the squid mimics the light preventing a shadow being cast onto the sea floor – its surface glows. Unable to do this alone, it forms a partnership with the symbiotic bacteria Vibrio fischeri less than a day after hatching, expressing a luciferase that catalyses a reaction producing bioluminescence. This mutual symbiosis offers the squid a disguise while the bacteria nutrients to survive – as well as offering us an interesting insight not only into a naturally occurring symbiosis, but a form of social cohesion in bacteria known as quorum sensing.
In 2013, Johnson & Johnson announced they had met their goal in eliminating the formaldehyde-producing preservative, quaternium-15, from their baby shampoo and other products. This was following a rise in people concerned with formaldehyde and its link to cancer – in 1980 its vapour was shown to be a carcinogen in the nasal passages of rats, and since then there have been many studies looking to investigate its carcinogen status. This outcry occurred despite the levels of quaternium-15 being too low to be considered toxic, and despite formaldehyde already being present in blood, and in much larger concentrations in several fruits. Nevertheless, Johnson & Johnson spent millions reformulating their products to ease the mind of the consumer.
I wrote a piece over at The Biochemist blog about encouraging young girls into STEM, check it out:
By Nabila Juhi, Urmston Grammar School
I was going to find a cure for cancer, seven-year-old me decided. From a young age I’ve always been interested in science. It was perhaps one subject where I felt I’d found my niche: it was logical, I was good at it and it provided me with answers to questions I’d yet to even consider. Coming from an immigrant family, with parents who didn’t continue onto higher education, I was encouraged to stick to it – without any mention of the inequalities of women working in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Perhaps unsurprisingly, statistics about women in the UK STEM workforce aren’t all that interesting for a child still learning her timetables.
ca. 1898 — Marie Curie — Image by © Underwood & Underwood/CORBIS
Like many young women it didn’t take me long to notice the differences. Of course, the curriculum had its obligatory…
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Depression has often been simplified to a chemical imbalance in the brain, where the brains of those who are clinically depressed have lower levels of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. It’s what many medical treatments are based on, with the most common on the NHS being selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s), which works by blocking the uptake of serotonin by the brain, meaning more serotonin is readily available. However, the idea that depression is caused by too much or too little of a chemical in the brain simplifies the issue at hand and prevents us from tackling the complexity of depression as an illness.
Sigmund Freud is the father of psychoanalytic theory. In the early 1900’s, this was a new field of social science that is based on the unconscious mind. Psychoanalytic therapy aims to make unconscious thoughts conscious, so repressed feelings are released and the patient gains some insight of their own mind. Freud’s theories are notorious for being based the male mind, and how women constantly wished they were men – inevitably receiving a lot of criticism from feminist spheres, in particular a Karen Horney.
Biological sex in humans has often been simplified to whether or not someone has XX chromosomes, for females, or XY chromosomes, for males. We create this binary in attempt to classify, and better understand ourselves and our identities – however this can often lead to hostile language and the “othering” of the many people who don’t fit this binary. But just like gender identity, biological sex isn’t all that simple.
In school we are taught that in order for life to exist, respiration must occur: that is, the taking of sugars like glucose and combining it with oxygen to give you carbon dioxide, water, and a small amount of energy. This energy is used to fuel metabolic processes in all life forms – boiling down to the ability to survive and reproduce. But there are exceptions, such as the many types of “electric bacteria” that use energy in the form of electricity.
There is an abundance of evidence, provided to us by NASA’s many missions, that there is water on Mars. Most of this is ice water, but there are tiny amounts in the Martian atmosphere and recently there has even been evidence that liquid water is found on the surface. But how did we come to know this, and what is the significance?